Midshipman’s Journal T.N.B. Cree R.N. 1 Dec 1916

Midshipman’s Journal T.N.B. Cree R.N.


Operations in Athens Dec 1st 1916


The party landed.        Our party left the ‘Exmouth’ for the tug which was to take us in, at about 1 A.M. and after a little delay we got under weigh.  There were about four hundred of us all told.  Hundred marines from both Duncan and Exmouth and a hundred seamen from each ship and of course a stretcher party from each ship.

It was a bitterly cold night and there was a fresh breeze blowing. I wandered about the boat deck trying to find a comfortable sleeping billet.  Most places were either red hot or ice cold.  However eventually I found a billet behind a searchlight and after struggling into the best position in which my bloodthirsty accoutrements hurt least, I slept.  I was woken up periodically by steam whistles and sirens, for we were doing our best to sink a French transport and ram the boom defence alternately, but nevertheless got a certain amount of rest.


Disembarkation           About 2.30, as far as I can tell, we got alongside grain wharf in Piraeus.  Now we had to stir ourselves again and start humping our gear out of the tug.  I left my ‘cosy’ billet without a pang of regret and joined the confused throng.  There passed a few minutes of uproar during which everybody seemed to be calling out section numbers.  ‘Stiffs’ were shouting out orders and cancelling them a few minutes later.  Fierce altercations were going on about the possession of a rifle or the sudden disappearance of a blanket.  However eventually we quit the ship and fell in on the road at the end of the quay.  After a wait of about twenty minutes we started on our tedious march to the capital.  This was about 3.15 A.M.


March to Athens         We took a roundabout route through Piraeus and round the head of Phalerum Bay and them straight in land.  We were halted many times to wait while Greek Guides (?) went ahead to see if there were any ambushes.  The journey was quite uneventful however and extremely boring.  I kept myself fortified by a number of hard boiled eggs which I had shovelled like peas into my knapsack before starting.

About half way there the marines and some Frenchmen broke off to the right. Their objective was a powder factory.

It was getting light about 6 A.M. and this was where we first had any signs of opposition.


Signs of hostility.        There were a couple of French ‘matelot’ companies ahead of us and just as we were arriving abreast of some hill they turned to the left and opened into skirmishing order.  We held on for a bit and then stopped and rested.  We saw a most ludicrous sight, the fat froggies worming their way on their bread baskets up a hill on the summit of which was a solitary man dressed in a blanket and skull cap holding one of Adam’s Mark I rifles.  He had I believe four or five men in support but he fell in with the ideas of the bread basket brigade and so all was well.  We proceeded.  We had another short halt while the French began their attack on Philopappos Hill.  But after a bit we proceeded and eventually arrived at the Zappeion at about 8.A.M.


Occupation of the Zappeion.  After the hands had settled down, those of the officers wanting breakfast, a good one, proceeded to Athens.  Us poor subs scraping 7 ½ d between us decided it was not worth while the walk.  About 8.30 Admiral [Dartige Du] Fournet arrived in a car and as he stepped out a maxim opened fire on him, much to his disgust.  Two seamen were knocked out.  They were rather badly wounded.  This marked the commencement of the desultory firing and sniping that continued all day.  They shot our poor old transport horses that were out in the square but that was not a great loss.  About this time our Gunnery Lieut strolled in at the main door.  The French flocked round in and dragged him in telling him of the recent occurrences.  However the Greeks had not attempted to shoot him although he had walked right through them blissfully unaware of the state of affairs.

I am rather hazy about the next few hours for I slept until midday. But by then things were getting a trifle more interesting.  The French V.A. was still unable to get away and the Greeks were making more noise.


1st Attack        Eventually, at about 4.30, tho’ I am uncertain about time, the Greeks made what might be called an attack.  There certainly was for a period of a quarter of an hour, quite heavy rifle fire, and the glass and masonry of their magnificent building suffered considerably.  But as they never stirred from the bushes we never replied to their fusillade.


Preparations for Defence.       When they tired of their game, we started to prepare the place for proper defence.  Hitherto the French, who were nominally running the show, had not bothered their heads about this.  But at the instigation of the Gunnery Lt. we got a move on.  The barricades &c. were built up as in sketch by means of “reapers and binders” “corn making machines” and other agricultural weapons.  The barricades round the circular court were of boxes of surgical cotton wool.

The plan of defence was as follows. The two wing rooms were held by Exmouth and Duncan seamen.  The middle rooms by French matelots.  The two passages by Exmouth and Duncan seamen.  The front door by French with maxim, the back door Exmouth’s with maxim.

The windows all round the building were high up but one had in every case something to rest on. Living rooms, wardrobes; passages exhibit shelves &c.


Plans for Defence.      In the event of an entry by:-   Unguarded rooms in either wing, they were to have been shot down as much as possible while passing thro’ the reapers and binders and the as soon as they were thro’ that they and twenty grinning sailors with bayonets fixed to push them back again should they have proved too numerous we were to have gradually filed out through the barricade and when all through hold the barricade as long as possible assisted by those in the passage.  When that got too hot to hold back we went behind the next barricade and then work round clockwise barricade by barricade until we came up with the maxim party.  If we could not stand then we would all work on round till we are joined with people in the opposite wing.  Similarly the French Maxim party would have to work round to this wing.  We would then retire barricade by barricade until there were either no Greek, no barricade or no us left.  There would doubtless have been ‘some’ bloodshed.

However it was not required.


2nd Attack.       The Greeks attacked again in half an hour’s time from the first.  This was some more furious firing than the first.  So much so that we had cause to fire a round at them in return.  Nevertheless nothing further developed.  We then had to settle down for a disturbed evening and night.  We knew there were a matter of some say 11,000 some say 18,000 Greeks all round us  they had reserves of roughly 150,000 so it was rather hideous for 400 to sit tight in there.  But there was no alternative.  We simply had to wait and wait for the attack which was inevitable and which inevitably developed rather seriously for us because at night they could come within 30 yds and not be seen.


Field guns and fleet get to work.        About 6.30 (again not certain) we heard the bark of a field gun and the rumble as it exploded in position marked on sketch.  Of course actually the rumble came first.  This properly fixed us if they intended to knock our happy little house to bits.  However we heard shortly afterwards a far greater rumble as a 9.2” exploded in the direction of the King’s palace.  The field gun fired one more round and packed up.  The 9.2” fired three more and then packed up.  Shortly after the last round a car came round to the main door and an embassy came from Tuis.  He was dragged inside and a conference held.  This was of course prolonged as much as possible to gain time and leave us as little time as possible to defend the place before the relief force arrived.


The conference.           Tuis, however, did not like having his Kitchens bombarded and so after much parleying a form of truce was arranged.  However we spent the night in some agitation but it passed uneventfully, tho’ we could see the Greeks stalking about in the shadows outside.

The forenoon passed uneventfully for us tho’ there was a duel going on outside between Venizelists in the stadium and Royalists outside the Zappeion.


The return.       In the afternoon we returned to Piraeus with a Greek escort to prevent scrapping breaking out.  Nevertheless we did not trust them but ostentatiously mounted our maxim in the cart and manned it.

We arrived at Piraeus in the evening and at first were to have remained ashore to guard Piraeus that however was cancelled and so ended the most amusing farce.




War Diary 9th Canadian Artillery Brigade November 1916



For the Month of NOVEMBER 1916






1-11-16           The 32nd Battery was forced to vacate battery positions temporarily this afternoon, due to heavy shelling.  This is the second time this has occurred within a few days.  Hostile balloons have been coming up in larger numbers lately, and hostile planes are becoming more active and daring.  Today a plane fired with M.G. at 32nd O.P. from a height of about 100 yards and later brought down one of our planes.


2-11-16          Rain and poor visibility in the morning.  In the afternoon, clear; many hostile balloons and planes up.  Another of our planes was brought down by a hostile plane about M.19.d.9.8. POZIERES-LE-SARS ROAD was heavily shelled in the afternoon, with 8-inch, and although 600 yards or more away, the splinters passed over us in large numbers.


  • Clear day. Hostile balloons and aeroplanes were up almost continuously. Another of our planes was brought down this afternoon.


4-11-16           Fairly quiet day; hostile shelling much less than usual.  Our batteries began harassing fire on REGINA TRENCH and BELOW TRENCH, firing 50 rounds per day each for the task.


  • Wire cutting carried on as usual; also harassing fire. Very little hostile shelling. Visibility good, and hostile balloons up all day.


  • Dull day, but hostile balloons were up nearly all day. The projected advance is now planned for Novr. 9th. Weather is the doubtful factor.


  • Rainy day, with poor observation and little firing. Operations are now postponed indefinitely.

At 10.30 p.m. last night we engaged and silenced a 4.2 battery at G.28.d.4.1. which was persistently shelling our front line, causing many casualties.


  • Quite a number of working parties were fired upon and dispersed by our batteries today.


  • Our Howitzer battery bombarded a part of REGINA TRENCH from 12.30 to 2.30 p.m. Otherwise the day was quiet. Orders have been received to bring up all ammunition from Wagon Lines.  Weather is better and further operations may be possible.


  • From 5.30 to 6.00 a.m. our three 18-pdr batteries bombarded the new trench running from M.9.c.1.2. to M.8.d.2-2/4.3. Our Howitzer battery again bombarded REGINA TRENCH between PRACTICE ROAD and FARMER ROAD, and the 18-pdr batteries are again cutting wire. The infantry are proposing to take REGINA Trench tonight.


  • The attack last night was a great success. The 10th and 11th Infy. Bdes. Took the trench from FARMER ROAD to our previous stop at M.13.b.7.3. Artillery barrage reported splendid.  Hostile retaliation weak.


  • Hostile shelling has been heavy today, and we retaliated on sensitive points in enemy’s lines.


  • Last night was very quiet. Visibility today has been impossible owing to fog. Some hostile shelling to which we retaliated.


  • Brigade area was heavily shelled last night, several hundred rounds, mostly 77 m.m. shrapnel being directed at us. Day foggy and quiet.


  • There was the usual intermittent shelling during last night. The day has again been so foggy as to make observation impossible. Clear in the evening, when a large number of hostile gun flashes were picked up.


  • A clear day with good visibility and a great deal of aeroplane activity. Our guns successfully engaged a number of aeroplane targets.


  • Another clear day, with consequent increased artillery activity on both sides. The brigade area was heavily shelled at intervals, especially between 4 and 5 p.m. when between 75 and 80 5.9s were dropped in the vicinity of our brigade headquarters.


  • In conjunction with the advance by V Corps on the left, our Infantry in this zone attempted to take DESIRE SUPPORT Trench this morning, but with only partial success. The Germans still have a number of blocks which we have not been able to get, and we have been keeping up a barrage on PRACTICE ROAD all day to prevent them bringing up reinforcements.


  • The barrage on PRACTICE ROAD was kept up throughout last night and all day today except for a short time in the afternoon when visibility was good and the area could be kept under observation.


  • A clear day with good observation; a number of aeroplane targets were engaged, as well as a number of opportunity targets in the form of working parties.


  • Today has been foggy and quiet, except from 4.45 to 5.45 p.m. when there was a heavy hostile bombardment on the left spreading to our zone. Our batteries placed the zone under a slow rate of fire.


  • Visibility has again been very poor, with consequent little activity. Information has been received that we are to be withdrawn shortly.


  • 3rdD.A. O.O. No 39 received at midnight last night giving instructions for withdrawal of our batteries by sections tonight and tomorrow night. We are not being relieved by any other unit.  The first sections were reported clear at 7.45 p.m.


  • The batteries all reported clear of their positions at 5 p.m. and Bde Hdqrs was then withdrawn to wagon lines.



  • The day was spent at wagon lines making preparations for the route march tomorrow.


26th to 28th       Route march ALBERT to ACQ  the first day’s march was very heavy with steady rain all day.  The weather was fine for the remainder of the trip.



  • The 9th Brigade is to relieve the 282nd Brigade R.F.A. in a position just north of ARRAS. The first section were reported in position at 6 p.m.




30-11-16                   The remaining sections completed the relief at 6 p.m. tonight. This brigade, with the addition of one howitzer battery (35th) from the 8th Bde is now the ”Right Group”.



Lieut. Col.

Comdg. 9th Brigade C.F.A.



December 1916

December 1916


On the 15th December 1916, the French began the Second Offensive for the Battle of the Verdun after a six-day artillery bombardment, advancing 3km beyond Fort Douaumont. Four divisions of the French Army were up against five divisions of the under-strength German Army. The German defence collapsed and 13,500 of the 21,000 of their infantry were lost, 11,500 having been taken prisoner. The offensive ended on the 17th December 1916 with the Germans finally accepting defeat at the Battle of Verdun on the 18th December 1916, and the French retrieving the territory they had lost in February 1916. When German officers complained to the French commanders about their lack of comfort in captivity, the reply was “We do regret it gentlemen, but then we did not expect so many of you”.

Having captured and destroyed 115 guns and 9,000 prisoners the French had pushed the Germans back to their original start line. The battle had lasted from February to December 1916 and was the longest single battle of the Great War. The French suffered 550,000 casualties and the Germans 434.000, with each side having approximately 60,000 killed. Tactical values of strategical advantage had not been gained by either side. For the French the Battle of Verdun was an iconic battle as they fought the Germans without Allied assistance. However, the Battle of the Somme and the Brusilov Offensive proved to be a great asset as they both drew German forces away from the Verdun battlefield thereby relieving the pressure on the French army.


The Balkans

During the Romanian Campaign, the Central Powers of Germany and Austro-Hungary had pushed the Romanian army toward their capital Bucharest. On the 1st December 1916, the Romanians halted their retreat east of the Arges River. They counter-attacked along the 20km wide gap between the two advancing armies and captured thousands of prisoners and large quantities of military equipment. The Central Powers were almost encircled by the Romanians but last minute intervention by Turkish Infantry on 2nd December 1916 was sufficient to stop the encirclement. When a Romanian Staff car accidently drove into a German position the Romanians suffered a massive set-back. The Staff car and the personnel carrying the Romanian attack plans were captured, and the Germans were able to push back the Romanian forces and progress on to Bucharest, which was eventually occupied on the 6th December 1916. To prevent the advancing Central Powers from gaining access to the oil wells and wheat fields the retreating Romanian forces destroyed them by setting light to them. In the meantime, the Romanian Government had relocated to Jasssy on the 1st December 1916. Despite all their efforts the Central Powers had not achieved their aim of defeating Romania and forcing them out of the war. With the occupation of Bucharest the Romanian army was still a force of considerable power and was of great assistance to the Allies. During the campaign Romania had lost approximately 250,000 men, almost a third of the manpower mobilized in August 1916.

On the 11th December 1916, Commander- in-Chief General Joseph Joffre called off the Monastir Offensive during the Salonika Campaign owing to the onset of winter and the front line stabilized along its entire length. After the British had captured Monastir on the 19th November 1916 the Bulgarians and their German Allies retreated north. The British attacked the new defensive line a few kilometres north of Monastir but the line held firm. Having reached the limits of their supply lines the British failed to continue the attack as their troops were exhausted. Although Monastir had been abandoned the new positions provided excellent conditions for defence and the Bulgarian artillery was assured dominance for bombarding the town. The Bulgarian and German casualties totalled approximately 61,000 men during the campaign, whilst the British and Serbian battle casualties were approximately 50,000. Another 80,000 casualties of sickness, disease or the resulting death brought the British and Serbian casualties up to approximately 130,000 men. The Serbian army was provided with the satisfaction of knowing they were able to return to the border of their own country, which was the one positive of the whole offensive.


Eastern Front

The assassination of Grigori Rasputin was carried out by five Russian Noblemen in Petrograd on the 30th December 1916.  At the beginning of the twentieth century Rasputin had left his wife and children and spent some time in a monastery before embarking on a life of religious wandering. He was introduced to Tsar Nicolas and his wife Alexandra and eventually was asked by the Tsarina to try to cure their son by prayer. Alexei was suffering from haemophilia and Rasputin had the ability to calm Alexei and this helped to stop the haemophilic bleeding once it had started. The Tsarina was convinced Rasputin was a holy man and he became more influential in the Royal Court which alarmed the Russian aristocracy. He was invited to the Palace of Prince Yusupov, in Petrograd and was offered poisoned cakes and wine for refreshment. He ate and drank but the poison seemed not to have not affected him. A Nobleman shot him but he survived this wound and managed to crawl to an outside door. When he managed to disappear in the dark, two more shots were fired into his retreating body. To be certain he was dead the Noblemen threw his body into river Neva and was retrieved some days later.


The Caucasus and Middle East Campaign

On the night of the 13th/14th December 1916, British troops began to advance toward Kut–al–Amara in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). The garrison of Kut had been besieged and in April 1916 Sir Charles Townsend had surrendered to the attacking Turkish forces. This surrender had prompted the British Government to re-think its Middle East policy as they were aware British prestige had been severely damaged. In July 1916 Sir Frederick Maude was appointed commander of the Tigris Corps., and he immediately set about re-supplying and re-organising British and Indian forces. An influx of troops from India had re-enforced the British army bringing the total number of troops to approximately 150,000 under the command of Maude. With the improvements to the British system of medical supplies and transport facilities, Maude requested permission from London to advance toward Baghdad before the arrival of the winter floods. After a short delay the request was granted and 55,000 men began the advance on both sides of the Tigris River toward Kut–al-Amara.

Britain recognised Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca as king of the Arabs on the 15th December 1916 following discussions between the Arab nations and the Triple Entente of France, Britain and Russia. The Sykes-Picot Agreement was signed on the 16th May 1916 giving the French control over southern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The United Kingdom controlling the Mediterranean and all of Jordon, southern Iraq and a small area to include the ports of Haifa and Acre. These ports allowed access to the Mediterranean from the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal. The Russians controlling Istanbul, the Turkish Straits and Armenia. Hussein was recognised by the British as King of the Arabs provided the Allies defeated the Ottoman Empire with the assistance of the Arabs. The Sykes-Picot Agreement was and is seen as a turning point in Western and Arab relationship.

The Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division (Anzac Mounted Division) of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (E.E.F.) seized the town of El Arish on the 21st December 1916. El Arish is on the coast of the Mediterranean in Sinai. The Ottoman and German Empires had abandoned El Arish and re-located at Magdhaba, 18-30 miles (29-48 km) inland and south-east of El Arish. Magdhaba was well defended by the Ottoman army, and taken by surprise when confronted by the Anzac Mounted Division, so soon after they had set-up their defences. Having seized El Arish and after a night march the Anzac Mounted Division attacked Magdhaba. By modifying tactics the Anzacs rode as close to the front line as possible, dismounted and continued the attack with the bayonet. Camouflaged redoubts had been located by assisting aircraft and the artillery, together with machine-gun fire had enabled these redoubts to be captured. Late afternoon of the 23rd December 1916 The Battle of Magdhaba collapsed after the Ottoman defenders surrendered.


Other Fronts

David Lloyd George was Liberal Party Chancellor of the Exchequer at the outbreak of war who was appointed Prime Minister on the 7th December 1916. As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George was a vigorous campaigner for the increased production of munitions but came into conflict with Lord Kitchener in the early months of 1915. After the death of Kitchener and the resignation of Admiral Sir John Fisher- First Sea Lord in 1915 the then Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith was forced to reconstruct the Government into a coalition with the Conservative Party. Lloyd George received the position as Minister of Munitions. Through the leadership of Lloyd George sufficient munitions were available for the Battle of the Somme. Disagreements at Cabinet level over Asquith’s running of Governmental affairs led Asquith into a position where he was forced to resign as Prime Minister on the 5th December 1916. Two days later, on the 7th December 1916 Lloyd George replaced Asquith as Prime Minister. One of the first things he organised was the immediate transformation of the British war effort. He had a strong hand in the managing of every affair, both military and domestic. Lloyd George was absolutely clear about how important it was for the support of women. He encouraged women to assist in the war effort by working on the land, the transport industry and the munition factories. It was Lloyd George who provided the driving energy and organisation skills that helped the Allies win the war. On the 9th December 1916, a five man War Cabinet was formed with Lloyd George as it’s’ leader to replace the three men War Committee chaired by David Lloyd George.

On the 12nd December 1916, General Robert Georges Nivelle was promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the French Army, to replace Joseph Joffre who had been dismissed in mid-December 1916. Nivelle was a capable Commander of the French Second army who spoke English well, and an organiser at regimental and divisional levels.  His now-famous line: “Ills ne passeront pas” (they shall not pass) was acknowledged as being a major reason for his success at Verdun. Alongside his success at Verdun was his ability to persuade French and British leaders he knew how to win the war, and was an important factor behind the decision to appoint him the position of Commander-in-Chief.

On the 12th December 1916, The German Government stated its willingness to consider the question of peace with the Allies. The request was submitted to America and on the 18th December 1916 President Woodrow Wilson sent a communication asking both sides for the outline of their proposals. Germany proposed Belgium and Alsace-Lorraine would remain under German control. In return the Allies stated their own conditions upon which they would consider peace. David Lloyd George, Britain’s new Prime Minister, reaffirmed that any peace could only come with the outright defeat of Germany. By the 26th December 1916 the peace proposals had been discussed and on the 30th December 1916 Lloyd George rejected the peace plans.

On the 26th December 1916, Joseph Joffre was promoted to the position of Marshall of France. He had been dismissed as Commander-in-Chief in mid-December 1916 by the French Government. His leadership had been gradually eroded owing to the continued deadlock of the opposing armies, coupled with the huge casualties sustained. As Marshall of France his role was reduced to ceremonial for the rest of the war and he was made strategic adviser although in reality his power was at an end.

The French built Charlemagne-class pre-dreadnaught battleship “Gaulois” was sunk on the 27th December 1916. “Gaulois” was off the southern coast of Greece in the Aegean Sea when she was hit by a torpedo fired by German submarine UB-47. The single torpedo exploded amidships killing two crewmen. Twenty-two minutes after being hit the “Gaulois” capsized, allowing all but two of the crew to abandon ship before sinking fourteen minutes later. The crew were rescued by the escorting single destroyer and two armed trawlers. When the Great War began the “Gaulois” escorted troop convoy ships across the Mediterranean Sea from French North Africa to France. She joined the allied fleet in early 1915 attacking Turkish forts at the entrance to the Dardanelles. Having steamed too close to the forts the “Gaulois” was hit and damaged below the water-line. After making temporary repairs she managed to cross the Mediterranean and enter dry-dock at Toulon for complete repairs at Brest in August 1916 and upon completion she was ordered back to the Dardanelles on the 25th November 1916.

On the 27th December 1916, Togoland was separated into French and British administrations, during the period of the “scramble for Arica”. Togoland had been a German Protectorate in West Africa nestled between Ghana and Nigeria and had been one of Germanys’ two self-supporting colonies. On the 6th August 1914, Germany was asked by the French and British to surrender and the request was rejected. Two days later they were over-run by the French and British forces. Togoland was governed by a joint administration until the separation on the 27th December 1916, Geographically, Togoland’s coast-line was ideally placed, during the war, for spotting the movement of both Allied and enemy shipping along the west coast of Africa.






15th Dec                                    French began the Second Offensive Battle of Verdun

17th Dec                                    Battle of Verdun ends

18th Dec                                     Germany accepted defeat at the Battle of Verdun


The Balkans

1st Dec                                      Romanian government relocates to Jassy

1-6th Dec                                  Romania defeated at Battle of Arges River

6th Dec                                       Bucharest falls to Germany

11th Dec                                    Joffre calls off the Monastir Offensive

19th Dec                                    Bulgarian and German armies retreat from Monastir


Eastern Front

30th Dec                                    Rasputin assassinated


The Caucasus and Middle East Campaign

13/14th Dec                               British troops advance to Kut-al-Amara

15th Dec                                    Britain recognises King Hussein of the Arabs

21st Dec                                   Anzac forces seize El Arish

23rd Dec                                   Battle of Magdhabaj


Other Fronts

7th Dec                                      Lloyd George appointed Prime Minister

7th Dec                                      Britain organised for total war

9th Dec                                      War Cabinet replaces War Committee

12th Dec                                    Nivelle takes over Commander of French army

12th Dec                                    Germany willing to negotiate peace terms

18th Dec                                   Wilson requests outlines for peace terms

26th Dec                                    “Peace Terms” discussed

30th Dec                                    Allies reject peace terms

26th Dec                                     Joffre created Marshall of France

27th Dec                                    French Battleship Gaulois sunk by submarine

27th Dec                                    Togoland administration separated